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tv   John King USA  CNN  June 8, 2011 4:00pm-5:00pm PDT

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viral. >> i think breitbart's not too happy. >> reporter: if he thinks andrew by the barty the bart's not happening, imagine what anthony weiner is thinking outside the bun. that does it for me, thanks very much for watching. i'm wolf blitzer in "the situation room." "john king usa" starts right now. good evening. tonight, stunning new proof of america's economic anxiety and how it affects president obama's odds for winning a second term. nato escalates its air strikes and talks openly of bombing its way to ra jamie change. >> it is no longer a question of if he goes but when he goes. >> up first tonight, a new graphic image and mounting pressure from fellow democrats for anthony weiner to resign. those calling for him to give up his house seat include the former chairman of the
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democratic national committee tim kaine who is now a candidate for senate in virginia. they include pennsylvania congresswoman allison schwarts who is tasked with recruiting candidates for key contests in the 2012 election cycle. dana bash is tracking the growing political fallout. >> more calls are coming in literally by the minute. since this afternoon, six of weiner's democratic congressmen said they think it's time for him to leave congress. i'll read you once from congressman joe donly of indiana. he said, enough is enough, it's time for weiner to resign. his actions have disgraced the congress. i'm told now not just the private calls are coming but -- public calls i should say are coming but also private calls, that this is mounting this afternoon. a democratic congressman familiar with these conversations tells me that they are now telling weiner it is time to leave, to resign congress, to preserve his dignity. democratic congressman told me, john, the issue is there's just
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increased resentment among anthony weiner's fellow democrats particularly in the house of representatives, that they thought this press conference he gave, which you're seeing pictures of there on monday, would do away with this, but that the flames are getting worse and he's dragging us through it, john. >> and, dana, do we have any sense of how the congressman is reacting? he's obviously hearing from his colleagues whether it's directly from them or from associates and staff. how is he responding? >> reporter: i can tell you from this democratic congressman i spoke to, the answer to that question was that they believe he's truly conflicted. and he said the people around him are conflicted as well. this congressman said nobody knows if this effort -- effort to get him to resign -- is going to work. we've heard weiner's very clearly up until yesterday that he has no intention of resigning. so it is unclear whether or not that is actually going to happen despite this pressure. this is very new. the sound of silence, deafening soil an en, from his colleagues up until today about the whole idea of resigning.
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that changed in a big way today. >> in any sense, any ability to connect the dots? the house is not in session this week. is it your sense or your information from sources that they're hearing about this in far-away places like virginia, like arkansas, to the degree that they think we need to do something about this? >> reporter: yes, some statements coming from congressmen and senators from arkansas, from indiana, from massachusetts, are coming from responses to questions that they are getting from local reporters and because the buzz is going on about this among their constituencies that are not close to where anthony weiner is at all, which is why we're hearing there is this growing resentment according to this one democratic congressman and frankly lots of other democratic sources i've been talking to. >> dana bash tracking the fallout. it was monday evening congressman weiner admitted sending a lewd photograph to a college student. he also acknowledged inappropriate internet exchanges with roughly a half dozen other women. one of those women provided
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photos to the conservative blogger andrew by the bart. tonight, there's an x-rated image purportedly of congressman weiner making the rounds on the internet. breitbart says he showed that photograph to two radio hosts today to prove it existed and while he was in the studio someone without his knowledge snapped a photograph of that image and put it up on the internet. we are not going to show you that image but it could factor into the debate about whether the congressman can survive politically. let's check in with jay jacobs. mr. chairman, simple question, should congressman weiner resign? >> i think he's going to have to make that determination. i don't think it's going to be productive for people calling for it. i think it's the people in his own district that hired him. they're the ones that are going to decide whether they fire him. he's got to talk to the people in his district. he needs to talk to his colleagues as well and his family. i think we've got to give him a little breathing space. this is something that is indefensible. i'm not going to defend his
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actions. but i think he needs a little bit of time. you know, we always rush to get an outcome. i think sometimes it's smarter to sit back for a few moments and let him make that determination. >> and as you asked for that time, though, as you look around the country, the former democratic national committee chairman tim kaine, now a candidate for senator of virginia, says he should resign. another democratic from arkansas says he should resign. allison schwartz, a congresswoman from pennsylvania, yes, just one congresswoman, but she's charged with helping the party go around the country and recruit candidates for 2012, she says he should resign. growing nuclearly think this is more than a unique issue, that it's a national distraction, if not problem. >> well, i agree with them. i think it is a national distraction. unfortunately, you know, we were -- he just won a great victory in new york 26 with cathy hockle in a surprise upset of a republican district because of the way the republicans have dealt with the medicare issue.
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the budget. we were on a roll as democrats. now we're districted by this. i very much understand they would like to move off this, get the spotlight off anthony weiner, back on to national issues. where we are doing very well, as we should be. and i can agree with that. by the same token, i think it's one thing to call for somebody to resign, it's quite another to get them to do it. what i'm just suggesting is i think nancy pelosi did the right thing in calling for an ethics inquiry. i think that the congressman should cooperate with that inquiry 100%. he's indicated he's going to do that. i think most importantly, he has to talk to people in his district. he has to see whether his chances of remaining a kong congressman are viable. they're only viable if the people in his district who hired him are prepare to forgive him. >> there's a poll out today, a slim majority, 51%, of the people in his district say he
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should not resign from congress. sometime these stories have a drip, drip, drip effect to them. another photograph released today, this one extremely graphic. we can't say for sure it's from the congressman but making its way around. does that make awe difference to you? >> well, i think it's just awful. i think, again, you know, the longer this goes on, the worst it gets, the worst it is for him. there's no question about it. he -- only he knows what's out there. only he knows the facts that will be determined in an ethics inquiry if it comes to that. if it turns out it is worse, than obviously letting this thing drag on is not productive for hi, for the country, for the party. so i would say that's a different set of circumstances. but you know, this is a human tragedy as well. in the political world, we're very quick to look at it from the political perspective and to try to do what's best for us politically. it's human, too. i know huma.
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i've met the congressman numerous times. i can't say i know him well but i do know him and we've talked. i think it's just a tremendously unfortunate thing. >> jake jacobs, sir, thank you for your time. >> thank you. still ahead, the president's top political adviser david axelrod joins us. we'll get his take on the weiner scandal and his sense of how the sluggish economy complicates his campaign planning. refugees flee syria and nato talks openly of bombing libya's gadhafi until he leaves power. okay, team! after age 40, we can start losing muscle --
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tonight, hundreds of syrian civilians are fleeing what they expect to be a bloody government offensive. cnn's ivan watson watching developments from turkey just across certaintyian border. >> reporter: the effects of the ongoing violence in syria is starting to spill across the borders here in turkey, within the last 24 hours, turkish official news agency reports more than 220 syrian refugees have crossed over the border at places like this over my shoulder. a border that is not being policed by syrian security forces right now. we've seen scenes of up to 100
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syrian refugees camping out along the frontier apparently demonstrating in front of turkish soldiers here. all of these people appear to have fled the syrian border town of jisr al shugur. the scene of clashes. the syrian government saying 120 of their security forces were killed there by armed groups a couple of days ago. the refugees fleeing that city, they say, in fact, it is the syrian security forces that opened fire on unarmed anti-regime demonstrators. that town now described as a ghost town. shops closed up. and many people frightens civilians camping out under the stars along this frontier. they say they will come into turkey if they see any signs of the syrian security forces in this makeshift safe haven along the turkish/syrian border.
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back to you, john. >> gives you a sense of where he is. the border is up here. as you zoom in, talking about refugees leaving from here and getting up in here so they can escape the border into turkey if necessary, a mounting humanitarian crisis. there's word tonight from the united nations that the security counsel's preparing a resolution to the violence in syria. despite the threat at the moment of a russian veto. arwa damon from beirut. over the past several weeks, there's been a lot of international condemnation of syria. now the united nations security council saying free political prisoners, stop the restrictions on the media and the internet. is there any reason to believe the syrian regime will listen to the united nations security council? >> reporter: no, john, there isn't, especially not if the regime's past behavior has been anything to go by. already, they have come under
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new renewed sanctions by the u.s., by the european union. the only response we've seen when we look at what's happening on the ground is the regime appears to have intensified its military onslaught. the issue also with this resolution is even though it does call for these actions by the syrian regime, it is not necessarily threatening any sort of severe action if the regime does not comply. it is not threatening additional sanctions. it is not going as far as the resolution on libya went, to threaten any sort of military sper vention. other than being something than a slap on the wrist, there really isn't that much pressure that this resolution is putting on the syrian regime, especially when it comes to bringing about some sort of resolution to the blood shed, john. >> what do your sources tell you about the situation on the ground? what's your sense of what's happening on the ground, especially in the northern part of the country where we've talked about the fears of retaliation and more military crackdown? >> reporter: well, john, those
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fears still exist and have only been amplified. we were speaking with a resident of where it appears this military crackdown is centering on. and he was describing columns of tanks, armored personnel carriers, being stationed at two entrances to the city, to the east and to the south. so petty much he was explaining that the only escape route at this stage is through the north. that at least the syrian military has not blocked off. he was describing an area that sounded exactly like a ghost town. video that emerged on youtube showed row after row of shops being shut down. residents who have remained, who have chosen not to flea, are really bracing themselves for the worst, fearing the syrian regime is only gearing up for an even harsher crackdown than what they have witnessed to date which has already been a military crackdown that just in this one area of syria, john, over the last few days, has already claimed dozens of lives. >> dozens of lives. we'll continue to watch it with our arwa damon in beirut, thank
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you. in libya today, thousands of troops loyal to gadhafi attacked the rebel-held city of misrata. rebel fighters rushed from the city to the front lines. tonight, they say they're holding up against this latest onslaught. this attack comes just a it a after intense nato astrikes on tripoli. the nato secretary-general said it is time to make plans for the post-gadhafi era. >> the time to start planning is now. because gadhafi's reign of terror is coming to an end. and we must be prepared for when it is over. >> let's discuss this with david gergen. david, i want to start with something you wrote on you have been on this program. you've been critical of the administration essentially taking a back seat, letting others in the nato alliance be on the front lines of the fighting. you wrote this, i was among those who would have preferred
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stronger, more a certificative american leadership. but iffed good deaf fall, obama will have brags rights that his way worked better than critics like me thought. >> well, john, i think there have been a lot of signs in recent days gadhafi is coming toward his end. i think we've entered -- remember when nixon's final days in that famous book by woodward and bernstein? i think we've entered gadhafi's final days. don't know how long they're going to last. i think it could end quickly. despite his sort of ragings. the intensification of the air strike on tripoli, they've basically destroyed much of his compound. he's essentially a fugitive in his own capital now, trying to get away from any place they can bomb him. the russians have turned against him. russia's sent an envoy there to begin negotiations to get him
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out of there. the inner circle is starting to crumble. generals and others are defecting, as well as ministers. so i think he's getting down to his final day. in terms of interpreting how this was done, if -- obama took a risk. if gadhafi had been there for six months, i think he would have been seen as infect wall. if he brings him down soon, i think it's going the other way. hey, john, you know, they got bin laden. if they get gadhafi too, that's a good summer for president obama. >> about three months right now. what's interesting, david, i don't think any tears will be shed if gadhafi goes. no tears shed. do you find it at all striking -- you just heard the nato secretary-general there, mr. rasmussen, saying it's time to plan for the post-gadhafi era. after they dropped bombs on tripo tripoli, 40 of them aimed at the compound of gadhafi. the united nations resolution says nothing about regime
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change. and yet nato now openly, even though at the beginning it said the mission was not about regime change, openly talking about we're going to bomb you until you go. >> john, it's a really good point. this mission has clearly morphed. it's been done without, you know, without anybody really questioning it. that's one of the reasons why it's important that the russians have turned against gadhafi. because they were the ones who were, you know, along with the chinese who were really protesting the nato mission to start with. and said, you know, this is going to morph and now it's morphed and they're coming with us. a lot of things have changed. you have to say that if we get him, if he is toppled -- and i do think he's going to be toppled, either dead or alive, i think he's going down and going down fairly soon. that with u.s. playing a secondary role, one which i have gone the other way, i would prefer the u.s. in a more muscular role, but if the obama approach works, you have to give
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him credit for it. there's the question of who will run the place when it's over. i don't think our intelligence knows as much as they would like about who the rebels are and what kind of government they'll have. we've been, you know, there's been disappointment in the administration about the directions that egypt is tending toward. and there could easily be disappointment on libya. >> post-gadhafi libya would present a whole new set of challenges. i think you're right, the administration would prefer to deal with those than continued gadhafi holding on. appreciate your insights. up next, the day's big headlines. and an exclusive interview with david axelrod, the president's top political adviser. his stops include right here.
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welcome back. a lightning strike this afternoon in mississippi sends 77 air force cadets to the hospital. the commander tells cnn everyone is responsive and in stable condition. the senate this afternoon refused to delay new regulations cutting the processing fees banks charge every time you use your debit card. inspector general's report says 4,200 people including prisoners, children and even some dead people pulled a fast one on the irs by getting a deduction for buying a new car when they didn't qualify. it cost taxpayers $150 million. the irs tells reuters only a tiny portion of the claims were fraudulent. a new video message from al qaeda today. zawahiri's poem about the death of bin laden.
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a new video message from the man the world knows as osama bin laden's second in command, ayman al zawahiri calls for jihad and condemns both the united states and his treacherous pakistani
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government. he also calls the arab spring a disaster for america. and a poem eulogizing bin laden. >> translator: the man didn't surrender to the last minute of his life. he was killed among his family and his children. >> with us now, our homeland security correspondence jeanne meserve. it is interesting this is a videotaped message, not audiotape. >> it is interesting. more complicated to produce and distribute a video message. it's particularly interesting because of the security risk this must have posed. the assumption has been a lot of al qaeda leaders are worried after osama bin laden's death and the gathering of that treasure trove of information in pakistan. the feeling was zawahiri and others were lying low in order to protect themselves. and the fact that he went through the effort to distribute this now may indicate he was very anxious to be heard and to be seen. one of the analysts pointed
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specifically to the use of a courier, saying it was a courier that led the u.s. to bin laden. he had to have used couriers in in instant. it must have meant he wanted his name and face out there for followers to see. >> is it, forgive the word, it's an american word i guess, but is he staking his claim, to be the new number one? >> i've seen different interpretations. he does not end the video saying, i am the next leader. maybe it's just too crass to do that after bin laden's death. maybe it's just a matter of sequencing that al qaeda has not yet given him the nod and said he will officially be the third. excuse me, the next leader. there's also another theory. this guy is not particularly popular within al qaeda. he could be a difficult personality. some people have said he wanted to get his nape and face out there front and center, proclaim, i'm the guy, i'm delivering the eulogy for bin
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laden, i'm your man, i should be the next leader of al qaeda. >> our homeland security correspondent jeanne meserve. for more, cnn national security analyst peter bergen, along with national security contributor f fran townsend who served in the bush administration. peter, you know al qaeda as well as anyone. when you saw this message and then listened to the content, what is the most significant to you? >> well, i think it's quite significant this is an official recognition by al qaeda that the leader is dead. from their effective leader, number two, even if he hasn't assumed the position of number one. so, i mean, for the people around the world who say, hey, bin laden's alive or it was an american setup or some of the things we've heard, i think this is going to be pretty powerful kind of recognition that here you have zawahiri in a videotape saying, yes, my colleague is dead, describing the circumstances of his death. >> fran if you're analyzing this in the united states government,
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intelligence operative, intelligence analysts try to write a memo to the president of the united states, what's your takeaway here? >> a couple of things. he was careful in the videotape. you look at the background. you can't tell very much in terms of location information that you might use for targeting, can't tell very much from that. jeanne's report is quite right, he must have used a courier, so that's a good sign, targeters, you can be sure, will be trying to identify who that is for the next videotape. the other point i make is it's interesting, he's trying to embrace the arab spring. look, the -- this whole democratic movement throughout the arab world is completely inconsistent with the theology and ideology of al qaeda but it's very popular and it's got a lot of momentum behind it and it's unseated many ladders, so many of whom al qaeda wanted to see unseated. zawahiri and al qaeda now trying to wrap their arms around it and act as though this is something good for them. it's not good for them and it's inconsistent with what they're trying to achieve. >> fran, this tape will be
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analyzed by the president's national security team. we've talked in recent weeks about a lot of turnover in that team. you have information tonight another top counterterrorism official will soon be saying farewell. >> that's right, john, two sources have confirmed to me that mike leiter, the director of the national terrorism center has notified the president and white house he plans to leave his post. the national counterterrorism center is the one that coordinates sort of all the analysis and information related to terrorism. he was notified -- in fact, he got married the weekend of the raid against the bin laden compound. so he said he's leaving probably sometime in the next six weeks or so. the search is on to find his replacement. they've spoken i understand to stuart levee, a very senior treasury official in the bush administration. there was some mention of juan zarati, who was deputy director at the white house for counterterrorism when i was there, but no successor has been named or identified by the white house. so i think there's a real urgency to make sure that
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position isn't left empty. >> we'll keep our eye on that. another key player in what they call afpac, afghanistan and pakistan, which is where they believe al zawahiri is, somewhere in that area is ryan crocker. he was the ambassador to iraq. he will be the ambassador to afghanistan. fran, peter, both listen to this, i guess i'll call it a sober assessment from ryan crocker of the chances for success and what will be left behind when the united states says "mission accomplished" in afghanistan. >> i certainly don't come with such an intention to produce the perfect society. we can't. but i think by judicious use of resources and conditions based -- redeployments and transfers of responsibility as we'll begin this july, we can get to that sustainable stability. >> sustainable stability, peter
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and fran, sustainable stability. this is the troop levels in afghanistan. he's ramped up to 100,000. they believe they're making progress because of that. over the course of the past decade, nearly 1,600 americans have lost their livings in afghanistan fighting the war. sustainable stability. that's the best the united states can hope for, peter? >> yeah, i mean, in the 1970s, afghanistan was a country at peace with itself and its neighbor. it's not dream revision for a stable afghanistan. it's a country where gdp has grown 22% in the last year or so. a lot of good things have been going on. clearly there are some bad things. but, you know, the president faces a big choice in the next month about what size the drawdown should be. i've heard figures of around 10,000 out of 100,000 that you showed on the board. and then of course the surge itself is going to be drawn down within -- by the end of 2012. that's another 30,000. so some incremental steps in
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terms of troop numbers. >> we'll watch as this plays out. peter bergen, fran townsend, thank you. the president has a key decision, how fast to start drawing down those troops. next, a man who is help the president with that decision. david axelrod, the top political adviser to the president, left to run the re-election campaign. he'll talk about challenge number one for the president, trying to be re-elected in a tough economy. with diabetes, it's tough to keep life balanced. i don't always have time to eat like i should. that's why i like glucerna shakes. they have slowly digestible carbs to help minimize blood sugar spikes, which can help lower a1c.
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our new cnn poll out tonight
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shows stunning proof of economic anxiety. 81% of americans say economic conditions in the country are poor. perhaps no surprise, given the national unemployment rate, 9.1%, and other recent reports showing a soft housing market and other economic troubles. track president obama's schedule these days and you'll find more events like today's stop at northern virginia community college. >> there are too many people out there who are still out of work. without a job that allows them to save a little money or to create the life they want for their families. that's unacceptable to me. it's unacceptable to all of you. >> let's discuss this with his top political adviser david axelrod, here in washington for the day. i want to get to the economy and the challenge facing the president but i want to ask you as the leader of the democratic party, does president obama think congressman weiner should step down, give up his seat? >> i've not discussed this with the president. i would think the congressman
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would want to consult his constituents and his conscience and make a decision. i'm not going to engage in that discussion here. >> what does it tell you as the president's top political adviser, your choice to be the chairman of the committee, he gave up that position to run for senate, he says weiner should resign. is that likely to be a question every democratic candidate has to answer and won't they find that to be a distracting nuisan nuisance? >> i think this will resolve itself one way or another. you know, fairly quickly. i have great respect for tim kaine. he's a wonderful guy. i respect his opinion. ultimately, the decision rests with congressman weiner. i'm sure he's -- he's doing a lot of soul searching. >> i want to focus on the biggest challenge for the president. he was out today talking about jobs again, talking about some of his plans, his proposals to
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invest more money in schools like that, to invest more money in infrastructure, to invest more money in research and development. however, with the certainty of a republican house that doesn't agree with the president on those proposals and others, will he have to go into the election campaign essentially without any new specific proposals on job creation because he can't get them through the congress? >> well, look, i'm not going to presuppose that the republicans in congress won't see all that and feel the same sense of urgency that so many of americans do to continue to be working toward recovery. what the president was talking -- >> they just have different ideas? the president's wrong, they would say? >> well, that's what the election's about. if that's where it lies, we'll have that debate during the election. the president was talking today about creating alliances between community colleges manufacturing businesses, advance manufacturing businesses, to train workers to take good jobs that can be available.
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i would think people would be for that. they should be for that. but if they're not, then that's what elections are about, john, and, you know, that's something i think is important to understand. elections are not referendums. elections are choices. the president will provide his vision for the future. the things that he's driving toward, to restore middle class economic security, not just to recover from the recession but also to recover what middle class people have lost over a long period of time in this country. and the republican party can offer their ideas. so far what we've heard is very much like what we saw during the last decade that led to a catastrophe. but that is what we will be discussing when the campaign is in full gear. >> the president touched on that a bit today. he said i think most americans don't want to go back. it's clear to me as a student of politics, clear to you, what he's talking about. many democrats are starting to mumble and complain. some of them, the president needs to be more clear what he's
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talking about. he needs to be more specific, more contrast, if you will. too early for that? >> i think there will be a national engagement on these issues. i keep telling everybody, though, you know, most americans are not sitting around their kitchen table saying, boy, i can't wait for this campaign to hit full gear. i want to hear politicians debating each other and so on. they're more focused on their livings. we should be more for cussed on what we can do to help in that regard. the truth is election day is 16, 15 months from now, and, you know, for the time being, we should be focused as much as possible on those things that can help people and help this economy move forward. >> so then how can the president address those concerns? you're right, the election is a long way off. sometimes it's always about psychology, how voters feel about their country. and about their economy when they go to the polls. 58% of americans now disapprove of how the president is handling
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the economy. this is a stunning number. how are economic conditions in the country today? 19% of americans say good. 81%, 8 in 10 americans, say poor. if 8 in 10 americans think we have a lousy economy, do you see any prospect of this president being re-elected? >> i've been down this long winding road before with you and others, both in the last election and over the last several years. just a few months ago, you know, the story was, well, his numbers are up, things are looking better. there will be -- there will be twists and turns in this road. and we've done well by getting too excited when things look great and not too excited -- not too dismayed when things look bad. you have to keep focused on where you're going and what you're doing. >> can't have david axelrod in the house without going over to the map. you changed the map last time but this time in '07 iraq was the number one issue for the electorate. right now, the economy by far the number one. i want to take this down. this is your map from 2008.
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the blue state's obama. the red states, mccain. there's two right here. another one here. one here. there's one here. there's two out here. there's one over here. and there's one over here. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. what did i just do? >> you circled what figure to be battleground states in 2012. >> what i circled are states that obama turned red. they were bush states, blue. when you take nine total, many already say you're going to give up on indiana, that is a state that looks much less favorable in 2012 than it did in 2008. fair? >> i'm not writing anything off now, john. we have enough time now to work on a very broad battlefield and that's what we're going to do. that was the philosophy we brought into the race in 2008 and it served us well. so we have the time, the resources and the energized group of volunteers around the country to work on all of these fronts. >> what is the biggest single
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difference, the biggest single difference, when you look at the map now compared to the opportunities you had and it was a very pro democratic climate in 2008. what's the biggest difference? >> obviously, we're the incumbent and these have been challenging times from the moment we took office and people feel those challenges in their lives. so that is the fundamental difference. and everybody understands that. but, you know, we believe -- first of all, we believe in this country, in its capacity and its future. we believe if we do the proper things, if we're both fiscally responsible and invest in those things that will give people their best opportunities, then we're going to do well. we're going to go out and make that case. >> we'll bring you back in when you get an opponent. david axelrod, thanks. >> thank you. >> if you take a close look at this map, you know, obama was the democratic candidate, mccain in '08, who will that republican be in 2012? we're five nights away from the cnn only debate inp new
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hampshire. one of them will be right here, rick santorum. just ahead. >> announcer: this past year alone there's been a 67% spike in companies embracing the cloud-- big clouds, small ones, public, private, even hybrid. your data and apps must move easily and securely to reach many clouds, not just one. that's why the network that connects, protects, and lets your data move fearlessly through the clouds means more than ever. ♪ [ male announcer ] humble beginnings are true beginnings.
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we at cnn are excited to bring you just five nights from now the first major republican debate of the 2012 cycle. only on cnn event. for the first time, we've have all the major declared republican candidates on the same stage. let's take a look. here's our national map. this debate will be in the first primary state of new hampshire. our candidates will be there. herman kain. massachusetts governor, former governor, mitt romney. newt gingrich. and michele bachmann and rick santorum. our seven candidates for our debate. many of you may think it's too early for politics. i'm going to ask you to think again. the sputtering economic recovery virtually guarantees a competitive election and there are some fascinating policy differences among the candidates right here as the republican party looks for a new leader. on this program, we'll visit with the candidate from time to time so we and you get a better sense of who they are and what they would do if elected. tonight, one of the long shots,
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rick san tore rupp, the former congressman and senator from pennsylvania. he lost his re-election bid in '06 but hopes his support among conservatives give him a foot hold in the 2012 presidential field. if you were the president of the united states today, and you had a situation like that of congressman anthony wiener unfolding in the country, whether that congressman were a democrat or a republican, would a president santorum speak out or would a president santorum say none of my business? >> president santorum would say none of my business. this is an issue that's a tragic one. it's one that frankly i would have handled differently if i was in congressman weiner's place but i don't think this is for the president the united states to speak out on. >> you said you would handle it differently. how? >> well, i -- if i was -- if i'd done what congressman weiner had done, i'd be worried about my family and getting my life back
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together and not try to go out and be a congressman and try to profess to be a leader of this country. i think, you know, i would have taken different steps. i would have stepped down and done what's best for the people that i love. >> in a rick santorum presidency, would you try, if it's not done by the time you get there, to make medicare essentially what the congressman is proposing? it's a voucher program. not a guaranteed you get endless benefits from the federal government but instead elderly americans get a contribution from the federal government they use to go out and find private insurance. is that the way to go? >> yeah, it is the way to go. first off, it's not -- it will not be endless benefit. obama care changed that. as you know, john. the independent payment advisory board actually now has -- responsible for cutting medicare and for doing things to i would argue end up rationing care to seniors. if we don't change medicare, this is what medicare is headed right now. it's one of the reasons medicare was cut by over half a trillion
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dollars through obama care. what i've talked about in the past is changing medicare in a system -- well, let's just say identical to how medicare part "d," the prescription drug program, now functions. i don't hear democrats saying we're theiring seniors off a cliff because medicare part "d" is a program that subsidizes seniors premiums to go out and purchase private health insurance for drugs today. that's how medicare part "d" works. it works well. seniors like it. guess what else, john, it came in 41% under budget since it's been in effect. why? because seniors are engaged in choosing the insurance that fits them best. >> you mentioned your position on social security. you lost your seat in part because you supported president bush when he said allow americans to take a portion of what would go into the social security trust fund. their payroll taxes. allow them to take a portion. and invest it in private accounts. essentially invest it on wall street. would a candidate san tore rupp and president santorum push for that change? >> no, i -- we can't anymore. we're not in a situation where we could do that.
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when we proposed that, back in the '90s, back in 1997, i actually went on air force one with bill clinton and traveled to missouri and represented the senate republicans in that social security forum and made that argument. in fact, we were scheduled to run a surplus for the next 20-plus years. that would be a nice on-ramp to allow people to take the surplus and use that to start personal accounts. we don't run a surplus anymore. to finance private accounts would cost a lot of money and would put us in an even deeper deficit position. i just don't think that's possible right now. we're back to where i said we would be if we didn't do this and that is we're either going to have to raise taxes or cut benefits. some combination of that is going to be necessary. >> rick santorum is a proud social conservative, anti-abortion, anti-gay rights. you say you have no problem with homosexuals. but you don't like homosexual
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acts. a majority say gay marriage should be recognized as valid with the same rights as traditional marriage. our latest polling, 51% to 47% on that. would a president santorum push for a constitutional amendment as president bush once proposed, banning same-sex marriage? >> i support a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. i think marriage should be consistent across the country. marriage is the union of one man and one woman. it's essential for the family. it's essential for the stability of our culture to make sure that children are given the best hope, which is a mom and a dad. if we lower our sights for those children, we're robbing children of -- many children of the potential of having a mom and a dad by changing the standard of what society believes in. i think that's important. i also think it's important from the standpoint of religious liberty and standpoint of what our children are going to be taught in school. every time this issue has come up on the ballot, california to maine, people have said, well, this is going to pass in places like this poll show people very
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much in favor of changing the traditional marriage definition and it's lost every time. why? because once people realize the consequence to society of changing this definition, it's not that we're against anybody. people can live the life they want to live. they can do whatever they want to do in the privacy of their home with respect to that activity. now you're talking about changing the laws of the country. and it could have a profound impact on society, on faith, on education. once people realize that, they say, you know what, we respect people's life to live the life they want to lead but don't change how with that definition. >> we're about their months into the nato operations in libya. the president says he believes gadhafi will be gone this time. it's just a question of when, not if. would a president santorum have handled libya differently? >> very differently. what president -- i can't imagine handling it any worse than the president going out and saying gadhafi has to go, doing nothing about it.
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then engaged in attacks as a result of the united nations and the arab league and the french saying that they want america to participate and saying, well, i don't want -- i don't want gadhafi to leave, and now coming back and saying, well, he has to leave. i mean, it's been all over the map. it's committing american resources for a very unclear objective. what you have to do is make a quick assessment as to whether the rebel forces were such we could engage and be -- and work with and would be a group that we could have tremendous influence and take this -- take libya in the right direction. i don't think we made that assessment. from my perspective, you could make that assessment. then we had no business being in libya in the first place. >> you've been very critical, as you've explored your candidacy. has he done anything right? >> yeah, i think -- i mentioned that -- i think he's done a good job in


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